I’m in a bit of a spot. Last Friday I was asked to help design a new museum exhibit. It will have to be done quietly. The existing exhibit is extremely popular but it poses no shortage of challenges and problems. The concept is good. It is a recreated Pre-Contact village scene. However, it is an insect-infested curatorial nightmare. How can decades-old twigs, leaves and pine-needles be kept clean? Some parts of the display break all rules of contemporary artefact conservation such as 140-year-old baskets being allowed to collect dust in an unprotected area or animal hides being allowed to sit out and never be cleaned or maintained. Associated displays and information are hideously outdates. Grandparents remember using the displays that their young grand-children are now playing with when they were teenagers.
The new park manager is an actual museum curator who was sent to manage facilities after years of neglect. He is trying to solve the biggest problems first – especially one that poses a danger to this museum’s priceless collection of indigenous Californian baskets, one of the best in the state. Over the next two months we will work together on alternate displays/exhibits to replace the existing mess. Naturally the local tribe will be involved with the process at all levels and they will approve any final designs. The difficult part is dealing with well-meaning docents who don’t grasp the seriousness of the threats posed by pest infestation in a museum that, after nearly three years is finally getting its doors fixed.
I was the only experienced docent willing to work with him on it. All work must be done quietly and not many can be informed of these future changes until it will be too late to try to stop it. That, and that loveable cheeky-chinky-chappy who stabbed me in the back twice while in China has invited himself for Chrimbo.